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Inaugural Plans Start to Take Shape

Security Concerns Prompt Increase in Funding for 2005 Ceremony

A small group of Congressional lawmakers officially began planning January’s inauguration festivities last week, nearly seven months before the first votes are cast in the 2004 presidential election.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, established in 1901 and reauthorized by Congress every four years to oversee the inauguration ceremony, held its first meeting Thursday to begin planning the 2005 event.

Among its duties, the committee organizes the swearing-in ceremony and the post-ceremony Statuary Hall luncheon. The president-elect arranges other details, such as who will give the prayer, sing and recite an inaugural poem.

During its organizational meeting, the bicameral committee followed tradition by electing the Senate’s Rules and Administration chairman — currently Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) — as its head. (Until the committee’s founding in 1901, inauguration events were planned by the Senate.)

The panel also includes Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn); Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), ranking member of the Rules Committee; Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.); House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas); and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“Chairing the Congressional Inaugural Committee is an extraordinary privilege, and I am honored to have this responsibility in planning the 55th Presidential inauguration,” Lott said in a statement.

During its brief meeting the committee also approved the West Front as the inauguration site, where the swearing-in ceremony has taken place since 1981.

The panel’s fiscal 2005 budget — totaling $1.25 million, a 25 percent increase from four years ago — will provide for costs related to the ceremony, including construction of a stage.

A Lott spokeswoman attributed the increase to inflation, as well as security-related costs.

Additionally, the Capitol Police Department is seeking $3.1 million in its fiscal 2005 budget for inauguration-related costs, which would cover overtime for officers and other expenses.

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